Who was Sarah Siddons?

by John Downman, chalk, 1787

Born in Wales in 1755 to the theatrical Kemble family, her father was Roger Kemble and her mother was Sarah Ward Kemble. She first appeared as Ariel in ‘The Tempest’ with her father’s company in Coventry in 1766. In 1767 the actor William Siddons joined the company whom Sarah married in 1773, returning to the stage as Mrs. Siddons. After giving birth to two children, one during a performance, she made her Drury Lane debut in 1775.

It did not go well.

She retreated to the provinces becoming a hit at the Theatre Royal in Bath, returning triumphantly to London in 1782. She was so famous in her day that commentators coined the word ‘Siddonimania’ to describe her weeping and hysterical audiences who were gripped with ‘Siddons Fever’. Her husband died in 1808, the couple had seven children, several of whom died young.

Sarah herself retired from the stage in 1812 although she continued to give benefit performances and readings for several years. She died in 1831 and 5,000 people attended her funeral in Paddington. She was painted by all the most famous artists of her day and was commemorated by a statue in Westminster Abbey.

“The awful consciousness that one is the sole object of attention to that immense space…”
– Sarah Siddons

 

The Sarah Siddons Fan Club

The Fan Club first started back in 1986 when a group from the Southampton Tourist Guide Association decided they wanted to bring the History alive of Southampton alive in a fun & entertaining way.

Our first ghost walks were put on in aid of the Mayor of Southampton’s charities and it was a free event with a collection at the end. When we turned up at The Bargate for the first performance of ‘Leper’s Day Out’ we were met by 400 people and knew we were onto a winner!! Nowadays it is a ticketed event with a maximum of 60 audience promenaders and a different story is told each year.

What started as an annual Christmas show, soon branched out into Summer productions & Halloween showing the dark underbelly of Southampton’s past.

Today we still keep with the tradition of bringing to life the history of Southampton – using real stories and characters to engage with local residents to discover the fantastic heritage on their doorstop, and how the local area has changed

Since that time we have spread our wings slightly further and performed in Romsey, Hedge End, Netley, Eling, Hamble, Bishopstoke and Eastleigh to name but a few to tell tales of their local history too.